Week 24: ‘The Coffee Boy’ Spills It In Trump’s Lap
The Great Man Theory holds that heroes and other charismatic figures shape our world—that a carefully selected set of biographies tell the human story better than any volume of history. Against that view, I posit my Great Doofus Theory, which maintains that history’s true engine is fueled by the talentless and the trifling souls who persevere. Stumbling through life and stringing together a series of seemingly insignificant acts, the doofus can sometimes activate a kinetic chain that rips and roars like a Daisy Cutter bomb.
George Papadopoulos dropped such a history-moving bomb this week thanks to special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III, who persuaded him to sign a plea agreement in the Trump Tower scandal investigation. Papadopoulos shared the week’s headlines with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates, who were indicted thanks again to Mueller, on conspiracy and money laundering charges and failing to register as foreign agents. But those offenses were conventional and unrelated to the election.
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Papadopoulos, on the other hand, made his bones with the unconventional. From a position of almost absolute powerlessness inside the Trump campaign, he made repeated attempts via his sketchy Russian and Russophile connections to consummate meetings between Trump and Putin or between Trump and other Russian leaders in the months before the election. As a cooperating witness in the Mueller probe, the hapless and unaccomplished Papadopoulos may deliver doofus danger to the Trump presidency: Depending on what he heard and saw inside the campaign, his testimony could spark a chain reaction capable of toppling the presidency.
You can’t deny Papadopoulos’ doofus bona fides. He lied to the FBI, doofus style, which easily caught him in his fibs. Before joining the Trump campaign in March 2016, he labored on the Ben Carson campaign, making him a doofus’ doofus. When Trump met with the Washington Post editorial board on March 21, 2016, he presented Papadopoulos to the world, calling him “an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy.” As we now know, being described in superlatives by Trump almost always marks the subject as an incompetent.
On March 31, 2016, Papadopoulos pitched the idea of a Trump-Putin meeting at a meeting of Trump’s national security team, which included Papadopoulos and now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump was so proud of the event, he captured and tweeted it. Mueller immortalized it this way: “When defendant PAPADOPOULOS introduced himself to the group, he stated, in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin,” the plea states. According to CNN, Trump didn’t rule out such a meeting with the Russian leader, although Sessions is said to have batted the pitch down. He is reported to have said that such a meeting would look bad if it ever got out. Indeed. This week, speaking through press secretary Sarah Sanders, Trump said he had no memory of the meeting. Assuming that Papadopoulos told the truth in his plea, he makes liars of Trump and Sessions, who have consistently held that they did not know of any Trump campaign outreach to the Russians.
Maybe the biggest doofus move was letting him anywhere near the campaign to begin with.
About a month after the editorial board meeting, Post reporter Karen DeYoung blasted holes in the 30-year-old’s inflated résumé. Who but a doofus like Papadopoulos would have lied about having had a job at the Hudson Institute, of having played a big role at a Model United Nations confab, or of having delivered a keynote at a Hellenic foundation conference and put it all on his resume? Our judgment of Papadopoulos should not be so severe that we can’t give him credit for worming his way into the Trump campaign in the absence of real credentials. But outside of quelling his ambition, he seems to have had no idea of what he was really doing there. As the Washington Post notes, in the many emails he sent and forwarded to Trump campaign leadership (campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, campaign co-chairman and policy advisor Sam Clovis, Manafort, Manafort’s deputy Rick Gates, and an unnamed senior policy advisor) trying to make the Trump-Russia meetings happen, he never explains how the meeting would benefit Trump or the campaign.
Papadopoulos does long-term damage to Trump with his assertion that on April 26, 2016, he met with a Russia connection (called the “Professor” in the plea and believed to be Joseph Mifsud of London), who told him of “dirt” the Russian had on Clinton, and “emails…thousands of emails.” We don’t yet know who—if anyone—he told inside the campaign about the dirt. But it would be out of character for this ambitious doofus to keep it to himself. (Remember, thousands of DNC and Podesta mails were eventually dumped, probably by the Russians.) The prosecutors might have good reason for keeping these cards to themselves.
Also remember this: Papadopoulos’s “dirt” meeting came about six weeks before the infamous Trump Tower meeting between a gaggle of Russians and Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Manafort, purportedly bearing allegedly incriminating information on Clinton. Same M.O., different theater of operations.